Some tips for landlords on setting up a procedure for checking tenants

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Hopefully you have read the previous two posts on the March 2015 theme of checking and referencing and will appreciate that this is a vital element of managing your rented property.

In fact it is probably THE most important thing – your tenants are both responsible for maintaining your investment (subject to your repairing obligations) and providing your income!

I would recommend that you have a set procedure that you follow for ALL your tenants and that you do not allow anyone to persuade you to deviate from this.

Remember, con men can be very persuasive – thats their job!

Here are some suggested things to do:

The Application Form

First off you need to have a detailed application form for prospective tenants to complete.

This should have details of their names, employers, previous addresses, next of kin, mobile phone numbers, names and addresses of references, whether they have a car (and its number), bank account details, any pets, etc, etc.

You will find a form you can use for free on LandlordZONE and we also have one on Landlord Law.

However this form should just be the start – you should adapt it to your needs based on your experience of renting to tenants and the type of tenant you are looking for.

When the tenant completes and signs this form it has several purposes:
•It gives you information you can use to base your decision on – however also
•It can contain a data protection statement and
•Give you permission to use the information to take credit checks
•It can also be used as evidence in court cases (particularly if you put the special statement of truth wording at the end)

Other things to do:

Employers references – you need to take these and follow them up – this is critical as it is your tenants salary which will be paying your rent.

Double check the details – i.e. the address, telephone and similar information you have been given, to make sure they are real (and not the address of the applicants’ friends) – you can do this via the internet or yellow pages. A counsel of perfection is to assume that everything is false until you have confirmed it independently elsewhere.

Do some internet checking – for example if you are renting to a family you will not want one with out of control teenagers who are going to wreck your house. So, for example, do some checking against their names on Facebook and see what you find.

Personal references and previous landlords references are important, but remember that personal referees could be ‘primed’ to give a good report, and if they are nightmare tenants the previous landlord will be keen to get rid of them.

Credit checks – you should also pay for a professional credit check to be done – for example you need to make sure that the applicant is not being followed around by a trail of County Court Judgments.

ID checks – you should also take some ID (passports, driving license, utility bills etc) to check that the prospective tenants are who they say they are. Make sure you keep copies of these.

If you are in the West Midlands you will also need to do a Right to Rent check.

Things to watch out for

You need to make sure that the tenant will be able to afford the rent so check this aspect very carefully.

However you also need to be wary if the tenants appear to be too free with their cash. Particularly if they offer to pay cash up front for, say, six months and seem keen for you to leave them alone.

Sometimes apparently respectable tenants can actually be in league with criminals who want your property to use as a cannabis farm. This is not as unusual as you may think and it CAN happen to you.

Read Ben’s post here.

You may also want to have a read of the (free) Scams and Frauds section on Landlord Law.

And finally

What is your feeling about this prospective tenant? Do you feel positive about them or is there a smidgen of doubt?

If you are not sure – I would suggest that you follow your instinct and find someone else. Often your subconscious will pick up signals that the ‘top of your mind’ will not see. Learn to trust it.

But carry out the formal checks too. If you do both – you should normally be fine.

What are YOUR tips for landlords on checking tenants?